Hamamelis vernalis is a lovely native shrub/small tree that blooms when you have just about given up hope that winter will end and warmth will return to the world...In my Middle Tennessee garden it often begins blooming in early to mid January and it's not unusual for it to continue blooming into February and sometimes March.
|Petals furled and unfurled|
|On a 50˚ day they perfume the air|
I think they're spectacular in my mostly brown winter garden and I planted one along the front walkway so visitors can enjoy the blooms and their sweet scent.
|Just before they burst open|
Witch hazels are indeed insect pollinated flowers, just check these clues out: They have long, bright-yellow petals, sweet smelling nectar and their stamens (pollen-bearing male bits) are right next to the nectar source. But, how you wonder is insect pollination possible in mid winter? Bernd Heinrich discovered that winter moths are responsible for pollinating witch hazels. These owlet moths have a remarkable ability to heat themselves by using energy to shiver, raising their body temperatures by as much as 50 degrees in order to fly in search of food. (source).
Nature and its critters are amazing!
|The flowers are deep to bright red, rarely yellow, with four ribbon-shaped petals 7–10 mm (0.28–0.39 in) long and four short stamens, and grow in clusters|
That's my story and I am sticking to it!
If you want to grow this Central South/Southern native shrub just give it a partially shady location with good morning sun, moist acid soil. It tolerates Clay and Limestone's more neutral soil, so, I am pretty sure you can have success with it, too. It has great fall color, attracts pollinators, and blooms for two months. Mine are species but, there are marvelous cultivars if you are so inclined!
Common Name: Ozark witch hazel
Type: Deciduous shrub or small tree
Native Range: Southern and central United States in rocky stream banks, in moist open woodlands.
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: January to April
Bloom Description: Yellow with red inner calyx
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium, consistently moist. NOT drought tolerant
Maintenance: Low, does not need to be pruned
Suggested Use: Rain Garden, along creek banks,
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall color
Usage: Please plant them where you will be sure to appreciate them during the winter months. They can colonize and would make an effective screen along property boundary. Use in mixed border or as a specimen.
Wildlife value: Habitat value for insects and for birds that come to nest in their branches. The seeds and flowers are eaten by turkey and ruffed grouse.Comments: An important medicinal plant for many native American tribes. Twigs, leaves and bark are the basis of witch hazel extract.
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Clay Soil
I love that not only does Hamamelis vernalis flower for months, it has a lovely fragrance. How clever of Mother Nature to give winter bloomers that something special to insure that moths, a little fly, gnat or bee will follow the scent and pollinate the flower.
Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday. This day is about sharing wildflowers and other native plants no matter where one gardens~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants. It doesn't matter if they're in bloom (think winter sharing), how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.
*If you're new to C and L, my garden is a Central Basin woodland (there are some sunny areas) with dryer, heavier, shallow and neutral clay soil. I've unearthed enough limestone rocks to build several small walls and there's still more. Not too far below my plants is a thick layer of Ordovician limestone that makes for challenging gardening experiences. The native plants I've chosen are adapted to the environment and conditions at Clay and Limestone and provide food, nesting and/or shelter for mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Humans seem to appreciate it, too.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.